Brazil's culinary influences include not only Amerindian and Portuguese foods, but the cooking styles of immigrants from many other parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Each of the country's five geographic regions offer cuisines that are distinctly different yet recognizably Brazilian.
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The Festa de Sao Benedito, or Festival of St. Benedict, is featured in the center-west. Traditional dances and foods such as little balls, or bolinhos, of deep-fried rice or cheese mark this celebration.
In full leather regalia, cattlemen of the northeast gather to celebrate a special outdoor Cowboy's Mass, or Missa do Vaqueiro, in the Pernambuco back lands, remaining on their horses during the ceremony. Included in the blessings are some that are specifically said for the cowboys' gear, their hats, saddles and saddlebags containing foods they brought to share, manioc (cassava) meal, queijo do sertao, a popular hard cheese made mostly of goat's milk, and rapadura, hard chunks of raw brown sugar eaten as candy.
In the city of Belem in the north, the two week celebration called Cirio de Nazare begins with a parade to transport the statue of the virgin of Nazare from the cathedral to the basilica. It ends with her return to the cathedral. The traditional feast on the first day of the festival includes pato ao tucupi, or roast duck marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, then boiled in tucupi, a seasoned sauce made with the juice extracted from manioc (cassava) root.
New Year's Eve Day
Candomble worshippers gather at the beaches to pay homage to Iemanja, goddess of the sea. In the hope of receiving blessings for the coming year, offerings of fruits, rice and flowers are set out to sea.
Festas Juninas are the joyous midwinter festival days when the feasts of St. John, St. Anthony and St. Peter are celebrated throughout Brazil with traditional foods, games and dances. While these customs originated with the Portuguese, the foods associated with these holidays are based on native preparations such as baked sweet potatoes and corn-based dishes.
A popular folk celebration in the northeast, apparently originating as a pagan festival, is part of the repertoire of these winter festival days. It is the burlesque pantomime called bumba-meu-boi, or "hit my bull." Its performances are traced to colonial times when it served as a diversion for the slaves on the cattle estates. As is typical with folklore, the tale has many versions. The general theme is a satire pitting the oppressive master against a black slave, or sometimes a lowly worker, who gets into mischief that causes the death or disfiguration of the master's prize bull and finishes joyfully with the bull's miraculous resuscitation.
Carnival, the pre-Lenten celebration that consumes Brazil, is world famous and needs no further explanation.
The region around the city of Parati in the southeast is known for its production of cachaca, or pinga, Brazil's brandy made from cane sugar. The Pinga Festival celebrates this enormously popular alcohol.
In the south, Octoberfest is celebrated in Blumenau. It is based on the Bavarian harvest festival and involves much merrymaking, beer drinking and sausage eating.
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This page modified January 2007
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